Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
From Prison Inmates to Would-be Lawyers, Black Prospects Are Dimming

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The election of a Black president aside, white determination to hang on to skin privilege may be on the increase. California's governor proposes to cut prison costs through privatization, while refusing to release a single inmate. And despite steadily improving grades and test scores, law schools are enrolling fewer Black and brown students.

 

From Prison Inmates to Would-be Lawyers, Black Prospects Are Dimming

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

“Under Schwarzenegger's plan, the mass Black incarceration policies that have savaged Black society would be left intact.”

There have always been two distinct, although often overlapping, currents of Black America thought on how best to advance the interests of The Race. One current emphasizes efforts to deepen Black penetration in those professions that can increase the incomes and prestige of  Blacks at the top of African American society – professions like the law – a kind of Talented Tenth strategy for Black uplift. The other approach emphasizes broader efforts to improve the fortunes of the much larger group at or near the bottom, those most vulnerable to the worst abuses of racism. After two generations of a national policy of mass Black incarceration, prison inmates and ex-offenders best exemplify the bottom sector of Black society. In the current economic and political environment, African American prospects are looking bleak at both ends of the legal arena: for the millions on the receiving end of the criminal justice system, and for those aspiring to become practitioners of law.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is attempting to cope with his state's fiscal collapse by privatizing its prisons, a form of disaster capitalism that seeks to accomplish corporate political goals under the guise of economic necessity. Schwarzenegger dresses up his barbaric proposal with pledges to shift the state's spending priorities from incarceration to education, but not a single prisoner would be released under his plan. In return for promises to guarantee that a certain percentage of state spending goes to education, 170,000 inmates, overwhelmingly Black and brown, would be outsourced to private profiteers. The burden on the state would be made lighter, billions in public funds would be transferred to private pockets, while the mass Black incarceration policies that have savaged Black society would be left intact – a disaster for Black communities, especially those at the bottom.

“Law schools are shutting their doors to Black and Mexican-American students.”

And what of those young people that aspire to become officers of the court, lawyers rather than defendants? A recent study shows that law schools are shutting their doors to Black and Mexican-American students, even as these students continue to do better in their college grades and on the Law School Admissions Test. Even though law schools added 3,000 new seats between 1993 and 2008, and despite the fact that Blacks and Mexican-Americans came “very close” to closing the grade and testing gap with whites, both the percentage and the absolute number of Black and brown law students declined. That means that even as the law school pie got bigger, Blacks and browns got smaller portions of the pie.

Thus, both African American strategies for advancement are facing increased white resistance. Mass Black incarceration makes felons of majorities of Black males in some communities, while the raw numbers of Black lawyers is destined to decline, because of academic racism. Clearly, the struggle against white supremacy requires a full-spectrum mobilization operating at all levels of Black society. We need a Black Freedom Movement, now more than ever.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20100113_gf_PrisonsLawSchool.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 10:52pm EDT

The Twilight of Black Harlem

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Greater Harlem is now less Black “than at any time since the 1920s,” with African Americans making up only 4 in 10 residents. Galloping gentrification is a “racial as well as economic crime,” predicated on the historical devaluation of Black life, nationwide. “Poor Blacks are considered the human equivalent of blight, while affluent whites are treated as precious resources.”

The Twilight of Black Harlem

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

“Poor Blacks are considered the human equivalent of blight, while affluent whites are treated as precious resources.”

Harlem, that piece of Manhattan real estate that epitomized Black urban life for most of the 20th century, is no longer majority African American. The white presence in central Harlem has grown from only 672 individuals in 1990, to almost 14,000 in 2008. According to Census data citied in a recent article in the New York Times, Blacks now make up just 62 percent of central Harlem, and only 41 percent of greater Harlem, the cityscape between the Hudson and East Rivers from 96th Street to 155th Street. Greater Harlem’s Black population is now smaller than at any time since the 1920s. It is true that Hispanic Harlem grew dramatically in the last decade, but in Manhattan as a whole Latinos are losing ground right along with Blacks. The island gets whiter by the day.

The driving force that is rendering Harlem uninhabitable to its traditional population, is not white people swarming uptown – that’s just a symptom of the underlying pathology. Harlem, like inner cities across America, is under relentless siege by organized money, the real estate and banking interests that reap their greatest profits by forcing out poor and working class residents in order to create a much more expensive space for the relatively rich. It is pure predation, and a racial as well as economic crime.

The New York Times article on the whitening of Harlem attempts to treat runaway gentrification as a, somehow, race-neutral phenomenon – as if race and the price of real estate have not always been inextricably intertwined in America. It is the manipulation of race and its relationship to housing and land values in a racist society that allows speculators the greatest opportunities to buy low and sell high. Whether in scaring whites out of city neighborhoods in the Forties and Fifties, or pushing Blacks out today, vast fortunes have been made by the skillful use of race to inflate or deflate the value of entire neighborhoods. The racist devaluation of Black people shows up as profits on the bankers’ and developers’ side of the ledger.

“Greater Harlem’s Black population is now smaller than at any time since the 1920s.”

Race has everything to do with the politics of gentrification. Both the political and economic marketing of gentrification are based on the assumption that “good” neighborhoods and attractive cities are those populated by upscale white people. Poor Blacks are considered the human equivalent of blight, while affluent whites are treated as precious resources. New York Mayor Michael Bloomburg, plans to lay a white line of luxury apartments right across the center of Harlem, from river to to river, at 125th Street – and call it a renaissance. Most Manhattan Black elected officials are allies of the mayor, the developers, the landlords and the banks in the project to destroy Black Harlem. They are loyal to money, not their constituents, and hope to make enough money in the short run that they will not need those constituents in the long term.

It's the same story in Atlanta and other large Black population centers across the United States, the majority of which are hemorrhaging Black residents. The fact that gentrification is such a potent force for Black removal in all regions is proof that racism and finance capitalism behave in remarkably similar fashion throughout the United States. In that sense, nothing has changed since the days of racial blockbusting, several generations ago.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20100113_gf_BlackHarlem.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:49pm EDT

How Harold Ford Blazed the Trail For Barack Obama

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Poor Harold Ford. Having created the model of a right-wing, corporate Black Democratic politician in search of a national podium, he was eclipsed by the more talented Barack Obama. But the backing of a few billionaires changes all the odds in 21st century America, where the “corporate boardroom is the equivalent of Hollywood's casting couch.”

 

How Harold Ford Blazed the Trail For Barack Obama

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

“Congressman Harold Ford was kissing George Bush’s Republican behind long before Obama invited key Bush appointees into his new administration.”

The attempted reincarnation of former Tennessee congressman Harold Ford, Jr. as a senator from New York demonstrates that, in the United States, money is the only meaningful political constituency. Money chooses its representatives based on who can most reliably serve the interests of the moneyed classes, and it matters little which actual human constituency or geographic jurisdiction the chosen politician purports to represent. Memphis or Manhattan – what’s the difference, when the only audience that counts is Big Capital?

In the United States, the corporate boardroom is the equivalent of Hollywood’s casting couch. It is where the political actor auditions for a starring role as servant to the ruling class. In 21st century America, it is considered a great sign of progress that Black actors can now lie down on the corporate casting couch to vie for top billing in the multi-billion dollar theatrical venues of electoral politics. All that was required for Harold Ford to become an instantly viable candidate for a U.S. Senate seat from New York was the backing of three billionaires, including Michael Bloomberg, the seventh most wealthy man in the nation who bought his own job of mayor of New York City three times, and now wants to buy his very own senator.

“Ford was a Black Blue Dog Democrat years before Obama forged similar alliances on the national stage.”

By the corrupt rules of U.S. political theater, Harold Ford has earned the part. He was a trailblazer in right-wing Black Democratic politics, having paved the way for Barack Obama by aggressively wooing corporations and Republicans to the detriment of his poor and working class constituents in Memphis, Tennessee. Ford was a Black Blue Dog Democrat years before Obama forged similar alliances on the national stage. Congressman Harold Ford was kissing George Bush’s Republican behind long before Obama invited key Bush appointees into his new administration. Harold Ford joined with George Bush’s assault on Social Security years before Barack Obama put all federal “entitlements” on the chopping block. And although Ford was one of only four Black lawmakers to vote in favor of authorizing Bush to invade Iraq, while Obama was telling Illinois voters he opposed the war, Obama has since expanded America’s wars in ways that should make Bush, and Harold Ford, proud.

Harold Ford was an early Black recruit to the Democratic Leadership Council, the corporate headquarters in the Democratic Party, and now serves as the DLC’s chairman. Barack Obama always acted like a member of the DLC, and finally admitted he was their ideological soulmate two months into his presidency. So, although the Obama White House has been lobbying against Harold Ford's senatorial candidacy, it's not because of any political differences between the two right-wing, corporate Democrats. Maybe the problem is, they are too much alike, and Obama thinks there's only room for one of him on the national stage. But that may be too bad, because Harold Ford has his three billionaires, and that's all it takes to make a political comeback in the U.S. of A.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20100113_gf_HaroldFord.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 10:47pm EDT